It was supposed to be a routine wellness screening.
But when 30-year-old Jared Geary got the test results back two months ago, he realized he “was in really bad shape.”
Geary, a banquet and a la carte chef at the Hershey Country Club, had a blood pressure reading of 172 over 130, which he describes as “dangerously high ... twice as high as someone my age.” It was so serious that after seeing his family doctor he ended up taking a week of medical leave in order to get his blood pressure down.
“I wasn’t too surprised,” Geary said about developing hypertension, citing a combination of family history, poor diet and a high-strung personality.
“It didn’t bother me as much as it should have at first,” he said. “When doing research into the matter I realized I couldn’t take it lightly.”
As a result, Geary completely changed his eating habits, quit smoking and started exercising. He’s lost 15 pounds, though his day job can make it tough.
“Since I cook for a living, it’s hard not to eat a lot,” he said. “We [serve] all kinds of good-tasting hors d’oeuvres that are not friendly to my diet. I have to cook with salt, which is the worst thing to use, but the foundation of 90 percent of [our] recipes.”
Since he cooks for a living, we asked Geary to share some low-fat, low-salt recipes for fellow hypertension sufferers, as well as tips on how to control it effectively.
TIPS FOR CONTROLLING HYPERTENSION
1. Eliminate as much salt as possible from your diet. Replace it with a salt-free seasoning such as Mrs. Dash or Accent. The American Heart Association recommends that people under age 50 should have only 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. For African-Americans and people over 50, this amount should be no more than 1,500 milligrams.
2. Avoid processed foods. Pre-packaged meals such as frozen dinners and pre-seasoned meals and sides are often loaded with sodium.
3. When shopping for snacks, replace potato chips, pretzels and peanuts with fruits, vegetables and unsalted nuts.
4. Exercise for 30 minutes to an hour daily. If you’re not able to do a full cardiovascular workout, at least take a walk. The important thing is to stay active.
5. Take your blood-pressure medication or other prescribed medicines regularly. Supplement it with a multivitamin.
6. Try to manage your stress and stay calm. Yoga, pilates and meditation are a great way to deal with stress and stay clear of triggers that might set you off.
7. Replace all beverages with water. Five to seven cups a day will trim pounds and lower blood pressure.
8. Use a home blood pressure monitor to keep track of your health. Doing so regularly can help reduce the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
9. If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
10. Watch your alcohol intake. An occasional beer or a glass of wine isn’t bad, but overdoing it can cause a spike in your blood pressure.
11. Watch your portion sizes. Stick with standard serving sizes.
12. Maintain a healthy weight.
LOW-FAT, LOW-SODIUM RECIPES
OVEN BAKED TILAPIA WITH SPICY PINEAPPLE SALSA
2 white onions
1 bunch of cilantro
1/2 cup of vinegar
1/2 cup of orange juice
1 tablespoon of sriracha or hot sauce
One clove of garlic, minced
Two tilapia filets
Dice onions, pineapple, garlic and tomato, put in a large mixing bowl. Add vinegar and orange juice. Add hot sauce, chopped cilantro, and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Sear fillets in a hot pan with non-stick cooking spray, then bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove fish from oven and top it with salsa.
3 cups of baby carrots
1/2 cup pineapple fruit spread
2 teaspoons of honey
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Bring carrots to a boil in large pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. In a separate saucepan, bring the butter, honey and fruit to a boil. Drain carrots and drizzle with the mixture.